10 November 2010

A powerful advocate for the cluster bomb ban: Thoummy Silamphan

Thoummy Silamphan, 22, lost part of his left arm in a cluster bomblet accident when he was 8, and now advocates against cluster bombs. Photo credit: Tracie Williams By Gemima HarveyThink of an issue you believe in more than anything else; an issue that has deeply affected your life. Imagine you are an advocate for this cause. Consider sharing your concerns and feelings in front of an audience. You are standing alone on a stage with a huge white banner strung up behind you that reads, "The Opening Ceremony of the First Meeting States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions". The audience includes your country’s president and more than 1,000 international delegates.Thoummy Silamphan joined the Ban Advocates last year and recently shared his story at this launch of the meeting. Later that evening, at a gala dinner hosted by his government, he explained his experience."I am so happy and felt so excited to speak in front of the president and delegates from so many countries and tell them about the real life of survivors," he said. "I represent all survivors when I explain the reality of the situation and it was exciting to share this with the international community and government of my country."When he was eight years old, Thoummy decided to look for bamboo shoots on the way home from school one afternoon. As he dug into the ground, his spade hit a cluster bomblet, resulting in an explosion that knocked him unconscious. People from nearby villages found him and carried him 45 minutes back to his house. Realising how bad his injury was, his parents took him to Kham District hospital, where he was referred to Xieng Khuang Hospital. There, they amputated his left arm below the elbow.The 22-year-old survivor and activist has gone through huge personal transformations, experiencing immense trauma and the challenges of rehabilitation, completing his education, inspiring others with his story and convincing them of the unacceptable harm caused by cluster bombs. Today he works for World Education in Xieng Khuang province, doing field research on unexploded ordnance and surveying survivors."This meeting is about working together on an action plan, to give attention to issues like clearance and victim assistance and most importantly implementing the aims of the Convention," Thoummy said.Read Thoummy’s speech.Learn more about the Ban Advocates.